Sunday, October 28, 2007

Access Denied: Excerpt 2

Access Denied is my first novel. It is part science fiction, part fantasy, part romance. It's available on Cerridwen Press. Leah Bradley is one of the residents of Sanctuary, a safe haven meant to give humanity a second chance to repopulate the earth after the effects of massive asteroid strike. The single residents of Sanctuary are paired up for three month trial assignments by the Committee. You only get ten tries and Leah has just received assignment number seven.

[From Chapter 3]

She held the mug in her hands, feeling the warmth seep into her skin. She sat down before the terminal in the common room of the NAE maidel house’s Gamma wing. This place had been her home for three months now. She had enjoyed it. It had been restful. She had known the pressures of the carousel-like assignments had been tiring but she had forgotten how lovely it was to only have to worry about pleasing one’s self. And she had this wing almost to herself. Only two others lived here and they did not share her work schedule. Today the common room was hers.

The blue envelope sat on the desk before her. She gingerly sipped at the coffee. The only thing she could honestly say she was looking forward to in this pending disaster was once again waking up to real coffee. The stuff dispensed in the maidel house kitchens barely qualified as coffee. Setting the cup down, she flicked on the terminal. She tore one end off the envelope and tipped out the contents. The new residence badge identified her new home as NAE quadrant, Section Red, Level 31, Quarters 26. The designation meant little but it did tell her something about her assignment. He spoke English. She had heard of some people being assigned outside their region as they tallied up more and more failures.

There was a good chance he was from the United Kingdom. Red section housing was usually designated for those who had come from that area and it could be a turbulent sector. Nationalists from several countries resented being lumped under the banner of UK, particularly the Irish who took great pains to point out repeatedly that they were not part of the UK.

A great many still clung stubbornly to national identities. Leah sighed, she really didn’t see what any of that mattered now. There was no England, no Ireland, no Scotland or Wales. There was no United States or Canada for that matter. Fighting that reality only led to stress and tension and it was a waste of energy. These were not words she’d have spoken out loud. To do so would have been unkind and argumentative. After all, perhaps it gave them something of normalcy to cling to, or perhaps it was just habit.

Sighing she picked up the blue disk and slipped it into the drive. She logged in and opened the folder. She glanced at the photo of the man and breathed a sigh of relief. This was no Paul, this was an average looking man. Perhaps he would respond better. She skimmed the information.

Name: James Edwards.
Age: 35.
Prior occupation: musician
Current work assignment: NAE Health Services.

Leah blinked and looked again. Exactly how did a musician get an assignment in the Health Services division? Had he been retrained? Was he a laborer assigned there to clean?

The remaining information was sparse. It had seemed odd to Leah at her first assignment to be given so little information, but when Karen explained it, it had made sense. If you learned everything up front you would have little to talk about at first. Besides, a complete profile would include very personal information. Information you might not wish to share with someone especially if you were not going to be acquainted for more than a brief assignment.

Marital Status: Married to Sarah Donaldson, seven years (deceased); Married to Nina Pruitt, one year (divorced)

She frowned. This one had been married twice. This wasn’t good. It would take a brave woman to take this one on. Maybe going in knowing it wasn’t going to be permanent wasn’t such a bad thing this time. She scanned the remaining information. He was born in Scotland but the Before Time residence was listed as London.

She took one last look at the face of the man she would be living with for the next three months. His eyes were light brown, almost amber in color and his hair raven black. The face was not unattractive she thought, but seemed to have an unusual sense of character about it. Overwhelmingly the expression, the look in the eyes and the twist of the mouth spoke of someone who was tired. Bored, reluctant and tired. Well, they’d have that in common if nothing else.

A small tapping sound skittering across the floor got her attention. She smiled down at the source. It still amazed her that this was allowed—well, allowed with special permission and a credit bond and the outrageous cost of purchase. Charlie. Charlie was a gift from one of her previous assignments. The only one she had ever thought had had a chance to succeed. To mark the second month of their assignment he had surprised her with Charlie. The small red dachshund had delighted her then and continued to delight her now. Maybe I’m not destined to find Prince Charming, she smiled down at the eyes that reminded her oddly of the man still rotating on her monitor. But I have Charlie. She reached down and scooped him up, holding him so her cheek pressed against him. She turned him to face the monitor.

“So what do you think?” she asked.

He seemed to watch the twirling figure for a moment and then let out a low whine. “I know what you mean, my friend.” She stroked his ears, “I know what you mean.”

She retrieved the data disk and residence badge from the terminal and shut it down. She carried Charlie to the room that was hers. She had packed her things last night and now settled Charlie into a carrying crate. He and her belongings would be delivered to the residence by transport staff. Generally they arrived before she did because they took the service passages rather than the common areas.

Thirty minutes later she was being escorted through the Section Red corridors by a small thin man she had never met. He had arrived at maidel housing with the transport staff and had introduced himself as the man’s life guide. He had spoken little until they reached the level upon which the quarters were located. Then, a few doors down from number 26, he stopped and turned to her.

“Ms. Bradley, I know it is unusual for a life guide to provide escort for such a move but I wanted a chance to talk to you. Mr. Edwards can be a bit difficult at times,” the man began uncomfortably. “He is not unkind nor is he insensitive; it is simply that he is rather suspicious of people and well…”

“There is no need to explain,” Leah reassured him. “No one is at their best for these kinds of things. We all go into them with expectations and with shattered expectations. I make it a rule never to form an opinion in the first few minutes.”

“In James’ case, I’d ask you not to form an opinion in the first few days,” the man said wryly. He had relaxed considerably.

“You have a deal,” Leah smiled at him. “Besides, I’m not exactly new to this. Don’t worry.”

~**~

For more information or additional excerpts visit www.jacquelineroth.comAccess Denied is available from Cerridwen Press

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